Charla Huber: Dental coverage plan will change lives

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“I’m lucky my teeth are growing straight, I’ve never had my wisdom teeth removed and I had my first cavity at 27. I know all the kids who don’t see the dentist don’t have that privilege.”

I grew up in a single parent family and we didn’t always go to the dentist regularly. The cost of dental care was a barrier for my family. When I was very young, we sometimes went to a family friend who was a dentist because he offered the service for a small fee, as a favor.

I remember as a teenager going to a non-profit or discount dentist. I can’t remember how many times we went to the dentist, but I know it wasn’t nearly every six months. I’m sure it can sometimes go a year or so between visits to the dentist.

I know some of you might think I’m native and would have gotten free dental care, but I never did. Being part of the 60s Scoop, I don’t know which community I come from, and without this information I can’t access it.

I’m lucky my teeth are growing straight, I’ve never had to remove my wisdom teeth, and I had my first cavity at 27. I know that not all children who do not see the dentist have this privilege.

My mother told me that her family also struggled to afford the dentist when she was young. Her family could not afford braces and she was told to push on her teeth with popsicle sticks.

I left home at 18 and worked seasonal jobs at ski resorts and resorts. Even after starting a professional career with benefits, I didn’t start going to the dentist regularly for years. I think it was because it wasn’t something I had ever done.

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was in town last week and took the time to chat with me. Singh explained how the federal government plans to have dental coverage for children under 12 by the end of the year.

“The cost of living is rising, there’s a war threatening global security, and there’s a lot of fear and anxiety,” Singh said. “We have people saying, ‘You need to get us some help,’ and in that help we’re going to help people get their teeth fixed.”

Not too long ago, I wrote a column about a mother whose daughter had an accident at school that prompted an emergency dental appointment. The mother had three young children and lived on disability benefits. Her dental coverage usually covered 100% of her children’s dental costs, but for some reason her daughter’s accident was not covered and the mother was upset and worried about how she could pay the bill.

This new cover, which is planned to be rolled out, would have alleviated the stress. It will also allow children to benefit from regular dental care that they can continue into adulthood and for their future families.

Singh explained that the federal government would be billed directly for all “essential” dental work, saving people from having to pay upfront and then wait for reimbursement. I think that’s very important, because if money is tight and people can’t afford dental costs already, having them prepay and wait is a barrier.

I have often wondered why dental care is not more accessible. This program will change lives. It will set up young children with a healthier foundation. Free dental care can take a toll on parents’ shoulders. It can get cavities filled faster and ultimately cavities averted.

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